Home > Inheritance (American Royals #0.5)

Inheritance (American Royals #0.5)
Author: Katharine McGee



   Royals: they’re just like us.

   You don’t actually believe such an absurdity, do you? It’s just a myth that tabloids use to sell magazines—accompanied by photos of the Washington twins shooting pool at a dive bar, or of Princess Louise of France blowing on the polish of her fresh manicure. Surely you realize that those photos are staged.

   In so many ways, royals are not like us. They grow up in palaces with lofty ceilings and sweeping staircases; they are constantly bowed and curtsied to. They inherit titles and tiaras.

   But then, they also flirt and fight and act on impulse; they have dreams and hidden fears. Maybe they are like us after all. Maybe they are astonishingly, achingly human.

   And nothing is more deeply human than a night filled with secrets.

   You know the kind of night I’m talking about. A night when everything changes, when your entire world seems to balance on a razor-thin edge before veering in some new and unforeseen direction. Situations that you never thought possible might unfold. And some doors might close to you forever. That kind of night will find all of us eventually, royal and commoner alike.

   And when the night is over and the sun comes up, everything has changed.

   That’s when the real story begins.





   Princess Beatrice scanned the ballroom, looking through the voluminous gowns and crisp tuxedos for one face in particular. But when her father approached, she quickly tore her gaze away and smiled up at him.

   “Hey, Bee.” King George IV of America held out a hand. “Dance with me?”

   It was a trick her dad often employed at crowded events. He and Beatrice would retreat onto the dance floor: to strategize, or to share something one of them had learned, or simply to get a moment alone. Often this was the only way that King George could actually talk with his oldest daughter and heir. The moment he and Beatrice stepped off the dance floor, people would swarm toward them, jostling eagerly for the king’s attention. Drowning him in a swirl of requests.

   Everyone always wanted something from the king. They wanted him to give a commencement address, or be an honorary cohost of their charity gala, or help their family member get an internship in Congress. They wanted a photo or a promise or simply the secondhand glamour of standing in his orbit. At events like this, King George and Queen Adelaide—and tonight, Beatrice and her French counterpart, the Princess Louise—were the zoo animals that people had bought tickets to see. And since this event had cost ten thousand dollars a table, the guests were clearly determined to get their money’s worth.

   “It’s such a hassle hosting foreign royalty, isn’t it?” King George said softly. “I’m glad it’s the Madisons this time, and not us.”

   “You’re glad we didn’t have to turn the palace into a blue fish tank?” Beatrice joked.

   Her dad chuckled. “I do feel like a fish, now that you mention it.”

   The ballroom at Montpelier—the Madison family’s country estate—had been transformed for tonight’s charity event, which celebrated the new collaboration between the National Portrait Gallery and the Louvre. The theme was Soirée Bleue, which, as far as Beatrice could tell, had nothing to do with either museum. It was simply an excuse to decorate Montpelier with seafoam-blue lighting and towering displays of hydrangeas on blue Lucite tables. The guests, all wearing shades of navy or periwinkle or turquoise, floated about the ballroom like a great blue wave. Behind a velvet rope, in a small antechamber, hung the pièce de résistance: the Mona Lisa, the crown jewel of the agreement between the two museums. The painting would be on loan in America for six months, touring from one regional museum to another.

   Ambrose Madison, the Duke of Virginia—who was America’s current ambassador to France—had supposedly brokered the agreement. He and his family were back from Paris for the weekend to toast this historic moment. Or, really, to soak up praise.

   “Have you heard from Sean?” Beatrice asked her father as they made a slow circle of the dance floor. Sean, their family’s head of security, was the only responsible adult at Washington Palace right now. Beatrice still couldn’t believe that her parents had left her siblings, Sam and Jeff, home alone on the night of their high school graduation.

   The king glanced down at Beatrice, amused. “I know you’re worried, but the twins will be just fine.”

   “You told them they could throw a party!”

   “We both know they’ve done it before, when they were the only ones in the palace.” A strangely wistful note entered her dad’s voice as he added, “Let them have their fun now, while they can.”

   Beatrice tried to hide her resentment. It must be nice to be Sam and Jeff: to have all the perks of being a Washington, but none of the responsibilities.

   Across the ballroom, the Duke of Virginia’s son, James, caught Beatrice’s gaze and smiled lasciviously. Beatrice quickly looked away, pretending not to see. James had cornered her earlier and talked about himself for half an hour. As if she cared that he’d played lacrosse at prep school, or about his college fraternity, or that he and his younger sister had vacationed at the Spanish royal family’s house on Mallorca.

   Those sorts of guys—the pompous aristocratic types—had been circling Beatrice with increasing frequency lately. At some point, she knew, she would be expected to marry one of them.

   But that was a far-off problem, and one that didn’t bear thinking about right now.

   Her dad tugged Beatrice’s arm over her head, and she spun on her toes, the way she used to when she was a little girl and he played Motown on the old record player. “So, what do you think of her?” he asked.

   “I haven’t actually talked to her yet,” Beatrice admitted.

   King George followed his daughter’s gaze to Louise, the Princess of France. “I was talking about the Mona Lisa,” he said gently. “Though now I’m curious about why you’re avoiding Louise. She’s one of the few people here your age.”

   Louise was five years older than Beatrice, actually, and vastly more intimidating. She gazed about the room with a blasé nonchalance, as if she’d seen and done everything in life and nothing could surprise her anymore.

   “I’m not avoiding her. I’ve just been busy,” Beatrice said unconvincingly.

   Her father let out a breath. “I’ve always hoped that you and Louise might become friends. You could help each other navigate the strangeness of your positions.”

   It was true that Beatrice and Louise had been born to similar situations, both set to become their nation’s first queen regnant. Though, unlike Beatrice, Louise was already queen in all but name. King Louis XXIII was ill; she had served as his Regent for several years now.

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